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Insurance ratings actions: Fitch affirms Phoenix, ReAssure following deal news

S&P Global Market Intelligence compiles ratings actions in the insurance space daily through 5 p.m. ET. Actions after 5 p.m. ET will be included in the following day's roundup.

U.S. and Canada

Fitch Ratings affirmed the BBB+ long-term issuer default rating of Voya Financial Inc. and Equitable of Iowa Cos. Inc.

The rating agency also affirmed the A insurer financial strength ratings of Voya Financial's life insurance subsidiaries, Security Life of Denver Insurance Co., ReliaStar Life Insurance Co. of New York, Voya Retirement Insurance & Annuity Co. and ReliaStar Life Insurance Co. The outlook is stable.

The affirmation considers Voya's improved business profile, which reflects a strong market position and operating scale in the company's core markets and improving strong operating performance. The ratings also consider the company's strong statutory capitalization, which is offset partially by higher financial leverage compared to similarly rated peers.

Europe

Fitch affirmed the A long-term issuer default rating of ReAssure Group PLC and the A+ insurer financial strength rating of ReAssure Ltd. The outlooks were revised to positive from stable.

The outlook revision follows the announcement that ReAssure will be acquired by Phoenix Group Holdings PLC. ReAssure Group and ReAssure Ltd.'s ratings are aligned with the ratings and outlooks of Phoenix Group, reflecting the rating agency's assessment that ReAssure is strategically important and would be "core" to Phoenix Group, according to Fitch.

The rating agency expects that ReAssure would ultimately be fully integrated within the Phoenix Group based on its view that the acquisition will support the group's strategic objective as a consolidator of life insurance portfolios.

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Fitch affirmed the A long-term issuer default rating of Phoenix Group Holdings PLC and Phoenix Group Holdings. The rating agency also affirmed the A+ insurer financial strength ratings of Phoenix Life Ltd., Standard Life Assurance Ltd. and Phoenix Life Assurance Ltd.

The outlooks were revised to positive from stable, reflecting the rating agency's expectation that Phoenix Group's planned acquisition of ReAssure would strengthen its already strong business profile through increased size, scale and business position.

The ratings also reflect the rating agency's expectation that the group will continue to maintain its very strong capitalization.

Middle East and Africa

A.M. Best downgraded the financial strength rating to B+ from B++ and the long-term issuer credit rating to "bbb-" from "bbb" of Bankers Assurance SAL. The ratings were placed under review with negative implications.

The ratings reflect the company's balance sheet strength, which A.M. Best categorizes as strong, as well as its strong operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.

The ratings also reflect the increased social, political and economic instability in Lebanon, which creates structural market issues that weaken the company's balance sheet strength, according to A.M. Best.

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A.M. Best placed under review with negative implications the B+ financial strength rating and the "bbb-" long-term issuer credit rating of Al Ittihad Al Watani (L'Union Nationale) Société Générale D’Assurances du Proche Orient SAL.

The ratings actions reflect the increased social, political and economic instability in Lebanon, which has led to some instances of cash flow constraints to the economy caused by a slowdown in capital inflows, according to the rating agency.

Al Ittihad Al Watani's ratings are enhanced by those of its sister company, Bankers Assurance SAL, which were also downgraded and placed under review with negative implications due to structural market issues stemming from the increased social, political and economic instability in Lebanon.

Asia-Pacific

A.M. Best downgraded the financial strength ratings to B++ from A- and long-term issuer credit ratings to "bbb+" from "a-" of Asia Capital Reinsurance Group Pte. Ltd. and its subsidiary, Asia Capital Reinsurance Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

The rating agency also downgraded the long-term issuer credit rating to "bb+" from "bbb-" of holding company ACR Capital Holdings Pte. Ltd. The ratings were placed under review with negative implications and were simultaneously withdrawn due to the company's request to no longer participate in A.M. Best's rating process.

The ratings actions follow the announcement that Asia Capital Reinsurance and Asia Capital Reinsurance Malaysia will be acquired by Catalina Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd.

The downgrade of Asia Capital Re reflects the revision of the rating agency's assessment of the company's business profile after the announcement that it will cease writing business and will enter into runoff as part of the transaction with Catalina Holdings.

The ratings reflect the companies' balance sheet strength, which A.M. Best categorizes as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, limited business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.

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Fitch affirmed the BB+ insurer financial strength rating of First Insurance Ltd. The outlook is stable.

The affirmation reflects the company's less favorable business profile and good capitalization and leverage. The rating also incorporates the operational benefits it receives from being fully owned by First Credit Union.

The rating agency ranks the company's business profile as less favorable compared to other insurers in New Zealand due to its modest market presence, limited product offering and dependence on First Credit Union's member base to sell products.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.

Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings. Links are current as of publication time; S&P Global Market Intelligence is not responsible if those links are unavailable later.